Rugby League: Sheffield Eagles coach unhappy at how club cap off a memorable season
It might have ended on a sour note, but Sheffield Eagles director of rugby Mark Aston can sit back and be content with a job well done in 2019.
Aston admitted that the defeat on the final day at Swinton took the gloss of what has been a progressive year for the club.
But now the dust has settled, the long-serving coach will look at the season as one of his finest considering the position the Eagles found themselves in over the last two years.
The club held a position in the top five for long periods of the campaign, but were severely hampered mid-season by the long-term injuries to skipper Matty James and centre James Glover.
Aston saw an improvement during the final quarter of the season, which saw silverware lifted in the 1895 Cup at Wembley.
But they followed that up with two disappointing defeats in the final two games of the season.
Aston told The Telegraph: “We had a good start, a wobble at the mid-point but I was impressed with the way we came back at the end.
“The last two games though have took a massive chunk of satisfaction away.
“The fans and everyone who come and support us will be so proud and happy.
“But the last two weeks have taken some gloss off.
“I'd be lying if I said anything else, I am an honest bloke.
“It has taken a massive shine off.
“I thought that we had more pride in us, and a bit more respect and integrity. I am going to challenge the lads on it.
“We pride ourselves at being honest and respectful.
“I think that Wembley was the pinnacle and we played really well.
“From that I guess it is difficult at times to get them back to where you want them to be.
“We got to the occasion at Wembley, we really hit the mark.
“We haven't done since. Perhaps it was always going to be hard to get back up after that.
“We wanted to sign off correctly, but we signed off poorly.”
Aston is now looking forward to 2020, and the squad re-shaping is already well underway.
Two departures were confirmed within hours of the final whistle at Heywood Road.
Winger Ben Blackmore announced his departure on social media after four seasons with the club.
The 26-year-old scored 18 tries in 31 appearances for the Eagles last season.
Also heading for the exit door is half-back Pat Walker.
The 33-year-old returned to the Eagles for a second spell with the club at the start of 2019, but announced his immediate retirement from the game.
Walker also represented Dewsbury and Batley during a successful career at Championship level.
As far as the Eagles additions for next season are concerned, Ryan Millar, Joel Farrell and James have all penned new two-year deals with the club. Aston is now looking to tie down other members of his squad as he attempts to build on the progress made in 2019.
Aston added: “I've spoken to just about everyone. I've told them where they are in my thoughts, and what is going on going forward. There will be some signing in this next week and then there'll be some going elsewhere.”